INSIDE MOBILE: Watch the Time You Spend Looking at TV, Computer, Smartphone, Tablet Screens

By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-03-31

INSIDE MOBILE: Watch the Time You Spend Looking at TV, Computer, Smartphone, Tablet Screens

With the Apple iPad, we will have four major electronic screens with which most of us today interact: TV, computer, phone and tablet. There are additional electronic screens outside the home such as movie theater screens, sports stadium screens and electronic billboards. Gaming consoles also typically use a TV screen. Many of us spend a couple of hours watching broadcast TV in the evening and, more frequently, this experience is done using a digital video recorder (DVR) such as Tivo. Children and some young adults are reported to spend 6 to 8 hours a day watching TV (including games using Wii and other game consoles).

We could argue if this is right or wrong, but it's important to note that, as we get older, we typically spend a lot of our waking time (that is, many hours) looking at electronic screens. And as we become teenagers, there's a massive time shift in which the phone (and, in particularly, time spent texting) replaces the TV as the primary screen. Research reports that some teenagers spend more time texting than talking with family and friends. And, some teens send in excess of 6,000 text messages per month-that's over 200 per day. (More on what I believe is a responsible way to teach our children about the appropriate way to use electronics screens will be discussed at the closing of this column).

The computer enters the scene during preteen years primarily due to playing games on the family computer or using a game console. Often, older siblings will "drive" the game while younger siblings become passengers. The younger siblings become proficient very quickly when they get time to use the controller since they have had strong peer training from their older siblings.

Also around the ages of 10 to 13, school work progressively takes more time, which continues as the student moves from high school into college. This is where time spent on the computer grows to many hours a day. When the person leaves college and enters the workforce, the time most people spend using a business computer is anywhere from four to as much as eight or more hours a day.

I think it's safe to say that from the time a child gets his or her first cell phone through adult age, most college-educated people end up spending many hours-up to as much as 10 to 14 hours a day-interacting with different electronic screens.

The Apple iPad and Similar Tablets

The Apple iPad and similar tablets

Now, enter the Apple iPad. How is the use of the iPad-and similar tablets from Kindle and tablets from companies such as HP, Lenovo, Google and Nokia-going to change the time we spend interacting with electronic screens? Will the iPad result in an incremental increase in the hours we spend interacting with electronic screens? For example, will we still check our e-mail, watch TV and use our phone about the same amount as before and then spend more time using a highly-portable iPad?

I suspect, for most people, a good bit of our iPad tablet usage will be done during the time we are doing other things. For example, I'm sure that we'll see a number of iPad applications that add interaction to TV shows. Guess what play the sports team is going to do next? Blog and interact with others about your favorite show while you're watching it.

Look up dinner recipes more frequently using the iPad in the kitchen while you're cooking dinner. Check e-mail while you're watching the news. And with new iPad applications, there will be some incremental time we use an iPad over and above what we have been doing before.

While I think that the tablet-made popular first by the Kindle ebook reader and more recently by the Apple iPad-will become the third major mobile system in our daily life (joining the computer and phone), the time we spend on these devices will result in our interacting with these three devices in a different way than before. Kids may find that they will use an iPad to text with their friends while watching TV instead of using the phone. An adult may check e-mail while on the back porch instead of doing the same thing in front of a notebook computer. We might use Skype from the beach with a headset to talk with some friends (and make them feel really jealous).

There's an interesting implication for technology requirements as a result of our interacting with these three different devices at different times during the day: It implies that the software and communications systems will keep the major applications and their data pervasively in sync so that everything we need is there when doing e-mail-whether it's on a notebook, smartphone or iPad. (I'm using "iPad" in place of the generic term "tablet" here due to the high PR value that the iPad currently represents and it being the most appropriate term du jour).

Make no bones about it. The iPad is going to popularize the use of a tablet as an integrated part of our lives. Pervasive sync between popular applications and exciting new iPad applications in such areas as education, publishing and entertainment are going draw people into wanting to use this mobile device.

Recommendation to All Parents

Recommendation to all parents

I want to end with a very strong recommendation to all parents: Do you know what's on the screen your kids are looking at right now? I think we have a societal responsibility to (as Crosby, Stills & Nash appropriately sang) "teach our children well." We need to help them make good use of all the wonderful information-particularly mobile-technologies that certainly enrich our lives.

We can get immediate answers to almost any question we pose. But it's clear that kids-particularly those from around the age of 10 through college age-spend a lot of time using IT. We need to make sure that they are educated on what's an appropriate and inappropriate way to use these information systems. And we need to educate them on how to effectively interact with others and with the world in which we live. Some balance may also help correct the child obesity problem.

My wife Alicia and I are fortunate to celebrate the end of each day far away from electronic screens. We celebrate the end of each day on the balcony in our home in Florida, toasting with a glass of champagne all the good things that have happened during the day. Then, we take the time to sit and watch God paint another amazing golden sunset.

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at
MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress.  He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.

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